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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Restructuring Railways

The ongoing debate on the IRSME site about the superiority of SCRA vs DR has me totally foxed. While on the one hand one longs for the much awaited IRS (Indian Railway Service), their is still a band of people who would prefer to continue with the divide in the mechanical cadre, one of the nine disciplines of the railways.

It is rather sad that the railways, unlike other sectors of the government, failed to evolve with the times and sadly so, for want of a strong decision maker have preferred the status quo since the time the country came on her own in 1947. So while the nation is managed by one service, namely the IAS, the railways is (mis)managed by nine, with each service having a narrow sectoral focus and none, none of its officers having the capability to take an overall view.

The separation of the railway budget from the general exchequer, sometime in the early nineteenth century was done primarily on commercial considerations. It was felt by the british that the railways being a commercial organization would need flexibility in its finances and hence this decision. Unfortunately the railways have emerged as an extremely rigid organization, more rigid that even the typical government departments, thereby nullifying the original objectives of this decision.

The contractual mechanisms and typical decision making processes in the railways are rigid and archaic. Perhaps this is due to the lack of a will to change, a situation that has occurred primarily due to the multiplicity of services on the system.

It is high time, the railways get a chief executive who looks beyond the narrow confines of his service and pulls us out of the abyss we find ourselves in.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The great disconnect!

India Shining, has been one of the finest example of disconnect in recent times, disconnect that the topmost echelons of the sarkari tantra generally have with the ground reality. Similar examples of disconnect can be seen in the public sector enterprises that are not doing well and in almost all sectors under sarkari control.

Living in a make believe world is the most common folly of all those who regard themselves as the rulers in the present day democratic India. A make believe world where everything is hunky dory despite the ground realities being abysmally different. And why not? This is the best scenario to be in for a top notch sarkari mulazim as well as the malik. Question the existence of problems and feign ignorance about sensitive ground level issues is the mantra. Questioning is the easiest when almost everything is in the dumps and the questioner is in an inherently advantageous position vis-a-vis the one who has to provide the answers.

And the railways is also no different. Here the number of observers, the number of people who are busy passing value judgements on diverse issues under the sun far exceeds the number of people identified for delivery. A blanket refusal to accept the ground realities, in their eagerness to present a rosy picture to the powers that be and perhaps enter their good books, has emerged as the hallmark of the upper crust in the railways. And therefore while there is general deterioration in the infrastructure with hardly any noticeable efforts towards improvements, the frustration levels in the field officials who are invariably left holding the baby is also on the rise. Wasteful expenditure on infrastructure provided whimsically is also a result of the absolute disconnect.

At the present critical stage in the growth of the nation, we already have more than our requirement of policy makers and pen pushers. What we need, if the nation is to move forward, is an army of committed field workers and a sarkari tantra that supports, not advices the field, and also does not create layers and layers of disconnect.

Is it too much to ask for?